There are trillions of biochemical reactions going on in your body every second of your life. Some reactions are tearing and some are repairing, and in order for you to remain healthy the net total of reactions must equate to more repairing than tearing. Do you follow me thus far?
I once saw a funny tee shirt that read, “Eat well, exercise daily…die anyway.” Admittedly, this statement is a true statement; in the end, something always gets us. The part that is left out of this witty testament, however, is what happens in between birth and death.
There is a story of a widow who was bringing her great-grandchild to visit her husband’s grave. When they arrive at the site she says to her great-grandchild, “What do you think is the most important piece of information on the gravestone?” The child says, “Well, his birth year, because if he were never born, then we would not be here today.” She smiles and says, “No, try again.” He thinks for a second and says, “The date of his death, then, because that is the day that we all remember him?” She replies, “No, but they are all good answers,” she continues, “the most important information on his gravestone is the little dash in between his birth year and the year of his death because it is how we live that matters!” There is great wisdom in that statement, and that wisdom applies to our health. We cannot control our birthday, nor can we control the fact that one day we will leave this life, but we do have control over how long we stay and how we feel while we are here!
So let’s talk a bit about aging…
There are many theories about what causes us to age. Some believe it is free radicals, some believe it is predetermined in our genetics, some believe it is the toxins and others believe it is stress. The truth of the matter is aging is likely a normal process that is controlled by all of the above-mentioned factors and then many others that we have not yet described.
Researchers have not discovered a way to stop aging, but they have discovered ways of slowing the process and, in many situations, reversing some of the ravages of premature aging. As with any situation, the first thing to do whenever we find ourselves in a ditch is to stop digging! Today’s article is dedicated to one of the most important ways that we dig our hole deeper and thus speed the process by which we age. In addition, when we control this process, we can actually see the reversal of many of the signs of aging! So let’s get started with our discussion on a process called GLYCATION!
Glycation occurs when the body’s proteins react with sugar forming a substance in the body called Advanced Glycation End or AGEs for short. While glycation is a normal process of everyday metabolism, the rate of glycation and thus aging is significantly increased by the Standard American Diet (SAD) and lifestyle. We will talk more about this later. For now, let’s continue with our discussion about what glycation is and why it is so devastating to health.
To help you visualize the process of glycation, imagine a fresh hamburger patty. When the patty is uncooked, the patty is soft, pink and malleable; however, if we cook it, the patty turns brown and becomes harder and less shapeable. That browning effect comes from the proteins reacting with the sugars in the meat in a process similar to what happens in the body. That’s right, the meat gets “glycated” by the cooking process. In the body, glycation causes tissues to become harder, thicker and less pliable. This process results in:
- Cataracts – The lens becomes cloudy and thicker until vision is impeded. This process is similar to the process of cooking an egg white. It starts out clear but becomes white and cloudy after the proteins in the egg become glycated by the cooking process.
- Hardening of the arteries
- Wrinkles and loss of skin suppleness
- Kidney damage and failure
- Loss of muscle flexibility
- Nerve damage
You can see how widespread and potent the aging effects of glycation can be to the tissues of the body. Because proteins make up a large percentage of the body’s structures, there is no tissue or organ that is safe from the process of glycation.
Glycation occurs more aggressively in diabetics, and that is what makes this disease such a devastating condition. In fact, Lancet, a well respected, peer-reviewed journal, estimates that diabetes ages the average heart by 40 years. The majority of this problem is directly related to the glycation process. So, what do we do about it?
Preventing and Reversing Glycation
Advanced Glycation End products occur from many different reactions in the body. To achieve the most dramatic decrease in the glycation stress of the body, we will want to implement a multifactor approach. With that said, we start with the most powerful way to decrease the formation of these powerful aging agents.
In chemistry, one way to decrease the number of chemical reactions that occur in a test tube is to simply add less of one of the chemicals. In the situation of glycation, the more sugar that is available, the more likely glycation is to occur. Simply decreasing the amount of sugar in the blood will decrease the amount of glycation that can occur. No other change in lifestyle will have such a dramatic effect on glycation.
For those of you who are saying, “but I don’t eat a lot of sweets!” you are not safe either if your diet is filled with carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and cereals. In the body, these carbohydrates are digested and absorbed as sugar. So, the first step is always limit the amount of sugar AND carbohydrates in the diet (especially refined carbohydrates).
The second step to controlling glycation is to enhance the body’s ability to process and utilize sugar so that it doesn’t hang around and wreak havoc in the blood. This means EXERCISE! The more you exercise, the more sugar your body is able to burn away. This means that there will be less sugar available to lead to glycation.
Now that we have talked about the bread and butter of controlling glycation, we can talk about things that we can do to reverse glycation that has occurred before it causes permanent changes. Scientists have found that a number of nutritional components in the diet play a very important role in controlling glycation and even reversing it! These compounds include:
- Carnosine, a combination of two amino acids beta-alanine and histidine. Research has found carnosine to be a potent inhibitor of glycation. In test tube studies, carnosine has been able to reverse aging damage to cells, resulting in more youthful and efficient function. In one human study, 15 healthy subjects were given histidine and carnosine. The researchers found that these compounds protected the LDL (bad cholesterol) from glycation and oxidation. In order to achieve a significant blood level, it is recommended that 1,000-1500 mg of carnosine be used in a supplement program.
- Benfotiamine is a fat-soluble form of thiamine. Aside from benfotiamine’s anti-glycation effect, it also appears to protect enzymes, heal damaged nerves, and decrease inflammation which is triggered by elevated blood sugar. 150 mg once or twice daily.
- Beta-alanine is an amino acid that is the precursor to carnosine. While carnosine appears to work on the fast-forming glycation compounds, beta-alanine acts on slower forming glycating products. Recent studies suggest that beta-alanine significantly increases carnosine production in the muscles. Recommended dose is 1,000 mg twice daily.
Glycation is, no doubt, one of the most powerful promoters of the aging process. Although we may not be able to stop it entirely, using diet, exercise, and cutting-edge supplements, we can significantly inhibit it and even reverse some of the damage caused by already existing Advanced Glycation End products.
If you have metabolic syndrome or diabetes, then you will want to take an aggressive stance on fighting these harmful compounds. Although the science of these supplements is in the early stages of discovery, I feel that there is sufficient scientific evidence to warrant their use. I feel that we can expect to see a decrease in complications associated with diabetes and possibly a slowing of the aging process in otherwise healthy people. I look forward to confirming this hypothesis as more research comes to light.
Some of the items described in this article have been combined into one formula called Mitochondrial Optimizer by Life Extensions.
For pharmaceutical grade vitamins and supplements, be sure to shop The Expert Nutrition Center! We strongly believe in educating our customers as to why and how their supplements can help them improve their quality of life. If you would like to learn more about our products, please feel free to contact us today 888-794-4325. Dr. Ray Hinish would love to answer all of your questions and help guide you to the product that would be best for you.